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NASA IG Paints Bleak Picture For Agency Projects 73

Posted by samzenpus
from the outlook-not-so-good dept.
coondoggie writes "The bottom line for NASA as well as any number of government agencies in this new era of sequestration is money — and NASA in this case has too many programs chasing too few dollars. That is just one of a number of bleak conclusions NASA's Inspector General Paul Martin laid out to a Congressional hearing adding that 'declining budgets and fiscal uncertainties present the most significant external challenges to NASA's ability to successfully move forward on its many projects and programs. For the first 6 months of this year, NASA has operated under a continuing resolution that funds the Agency at last year's level of $17.8 billion. Moreover, NASA's share of the Government-wide sequestration cuts reduce that spending authority by $894 million.'"
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NASA IG Paints Bleak Picture For Agency Projects

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  • by Lotana (842533) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @01:18AM (#43168223)

    Given NASA's constant funding problems for the last few decades, by this point all the talented engineers and researchers would of left. Also with the current political environment of focusing spending on the War on Terror related projects and social support, I would be surprised if there will be any increase in budget allocation to the space-related sciences.

    At this rate, is there any meaningful hope left for NASA, JPL or indeed any government-funded space-related agencies?

  • by Pretzalzz (577309) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @01:38AM (#43168317)

    Try again. Sequestration hit 5 months into the year. Assuming a relatively constant spending of money, $894 million is 8.6% of $10.4 billion[which is 7/12 of 17.8 billion]. This makes senses as it is the commonly quoted percentage for every agency facing cuts. But all of that budget isn't really cuttable. Say half of the budget is uncuttable. That leaves you needing to suddenly cut 20% out of the budget that is cuttable. This is where you get 1 day a week furloughs and whole programs/services eliminated like we've been hearing about in other agencies.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Master Control P (655590) <ejkeever&nerdshack,com> on Thursday March 14, 2013 @01:45AM (#43168353)
    In fact, the march of inflation means that if you don't automatically get a raise/budget increase, then yes your budget is shrinking in real terms. So the only part of your post that refrains from whining like a Randroid version of Chris Crocker for long enough to make a vaguely factual claim is... factually wrong.

    I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @01:46AM (#43168359)

    Since ?? Wall Street and Too Big To Fail banks have sucked all the BIG capital into the pockets of a few !! And you let them !!

    ISTM that since about 1980 we've been running the USA as a cream-skimming operation for the rich. Once they have everything they'll move on to another country full of stupid voters and leave what's left of the USA to fend for itself. Probably burdened with huge IMF debts, which, unlike the current debt that everyone is fainting over, actually have to be paid back.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 14, 2013 @02:25AM (#43168493)

    Sequestration, BY LAW, only applies to discretionary funds. There are, built into the law, programs that are "uncuttable", and yes, they are generally about half of total expenditures.

    And you fundamentally don't understand how government research agencies work. Employees at those agencies have to write proposals, just like every other researcher in the world, proving the usefulness and relevance of their work.

    Cutting salaries would entail even more paperwork and bureaucratic overhead than furloughs, and furloughs have the added benefit of ensuring that the government doesn't artificially devalue employees' work by expecting them to produce the same for less.

    Congress has burdened government employees with far more mandatory rules and regulations than businesses are subject to. In addition to mantory training, full documentation of all purchases with several levels of authorization for every penny so they can audit it later, and periodic investigations to make sure they interpret the rules properly, government employees must adhere to OSHA rules to the letter. They have to request approval for overtime and comp time, and working it without reporting it is a federal crime. They are required by law to take lunch (their timecards won't let them submit over seven hours without a lunch break), and if they work through lunch they are once again lying on their time cards and committing a federal crime.

    You want to make it possible for government employees to save the government and the country money? Start with Congress.

  • by Stripe7 (571267) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @03:57AM (#43168789)
    The reason NASA's budget is cannot be cut is Congress. Any time NASA wants to shut down obsolete projects or consolidate projects Congress steps in to stop them. NASA early on spread itself into as many Congressional districts as possible to gain the most political pull, now it has come back to bite them in a major way.
  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater&gmail,com> on Thursday March 14, 2013 @07:55AM (#43169961) Homepage

    Given NASA's constant funding problems for the last few decades, by this point all the talented engineers and researchers would of left.

    Yet, we have two rovers on Mars and two orbiters at Mars, an orbiter at Saturn, an orbiter at Mercury, a fly-by probe on the way to Pluto, multiple astronomical observatories, lunar orbiters, and more earth sciences orbiters than you can shake a stick at... In fact, NASA has more going on currently [nasa.gov] than at almost any other time in it's history. I'd suggest you calibrate your biases against reality, because the former is way out of touch with the latter.
     

    At this rate, is there any meaningful hope left for NASA, JPL or indeed any government-funded space-related agencies?

    I've been hearing that question since the mid-70's - NASA watchers seem to be mostly nothing but a bunch of Chicken Little's for whom the sky is perpetually falling.
     
    From years of watching NASA, their problems aren't so much budgetary and managerial... and not just at HQ, but all the way out to the line troops at the Centers. NASA has a long standing problem with properly estimating and managing their budgets. To be fair, some of that isn't their fault - Congress is rarely inclined to fund the engineering development missions that would give them the experience to do so... as a result, practically every program and mission is a one-off that absolutely must succeed because failure isn't an option. And because Congress and the general public treat every failure as an earth shattering disaster, something of a positive feedback loop has been established which just makes the problem worse.

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